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Harley Davidson - Style Before Function

What makes Harley Davidson motorcycles inferior to every other brand of motorcycle? Each individual item on this list does not make a Harley the "Worst Motorcycle". However, when taken collectively, these characteristics comprise an inferior motorcycle ridden by a pathetic following of people trying to be cool.

What do you call a Harley that doesn't leak oil?

Out of oil.

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    Shake-n-Break

    90% of all Harley Davidson motorcycles are still on the road today. The other 10% actually made it back home! Harley Davidson motorcycles have a long history of unreliability. The 70's is widely recognized as the worst period for Harley with regards to quality and reliability. In 1969 American Machine and Foundry (AMF) bought the ailing Harley Davidson, saving it from certain bankruptcy. Struggles between management teams and labor forces within AMF caused new problems for the company however. Large cuts to the workforce resulted in labor strikes. This reduction in workforce and cramped assembly-areas led to a markedly lower-quality product. In 1981 AMF sold the company back to some of the original Harley Davidson executives along with a number of outside investors. While build-quality improved under new/old management, sadly, it never reached that of the competing Japanese manufacturers, Italian manufacturers, or any manufacturers for that matter. Problems were not limited to the 1970s however. Harley Davidson motorcycles have been plagued with reliability issues from their first handmade motorcycle engine in 1903 to the most recent Harley Davidson motorcycle rolling off of the production line. Poor product design, terrible engineering, cheap materials, and unskilled assembly workers are the cause of many breakdowns and product recalls. Harley Davidson motorcycles have design and production flaws from the front wheel to the taillight.

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    Made in the USA? Not completely!

    Harley owners spout that their bikes are made in the USA. What many of them don't know is that Harleys and the parts that comprise them are made in Japan, China, Tiawan, Mexico, Austrailia, and the USA. No Harley Davidson motorcycle is 100% "Made in the USA". In fact, there are a number of motorcycles that are "Made in the USA". Take the Honda Goldwing for example. In fact, 76% of Honda vehicles sold in the United States are made in the United States. While Honda is not an American-owned company, their product line employees thousands of American Citizens at over 1,200 American-owned dealerships in the US. Labeling something as being "Made in the USA" does not guarantee a superior product nor does it imply that revenues stay in the USA. It is a marketing tactic and if there is anything that Harley Davidson Motor Company® is good at, it is marketing. Harley Davidson has successfully sold an inferior product for a very long time partially based upon the premise that they are completely "American made". If Harley spent as much money on engineering as they spend on attorneys and marketing, they would have a much better product. See the history page for information on when they started outsourcing components to foreign companies.

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    The Bad Boy image

    Harley riders often like to imagine themselves as being part of some sort of "bad boy" club. They like the stigma that goes along with owning and riding a Harley. Black shirts, black leather jackets, black chaps, boots, wallet chains, patches, tassels, etc. all are part of this dark, yet completely transparent pathetic attempt to attain a bad-boy image. This is evidenced by the general design of nearly every piece of clothing and the fact that so many people wear Harley Davidson branded clothes... people who don't even own a Harley. This idea of buying and wearing Harley Davidson branded clothing, particularly by non-riders, is absolutely ridiculous.

    Why would someone do this? One could compare this behavior to dudes who wear MMA shirts but don't train and have never been in a fight. They want to portray a certain image. Why wouldn't someone do this? For the same reason that I don't wear a Lear Jet windbreaker and a Lamborghini hat... I don't want to look like a pompus prick! The bad-boy image of Harley Davidson riders was used against them in a 1962 ad campaign. Honda began using the slogan "You meet the nicest people on a Honda". They made an effort to increase their annual sales five-fold and the campaign was a success greater than even Honda had expected! The American people recognized the stigma that was attached to motorcyclists thanks to Harley Davidson. To this day, Harley Davidson perpetuates this image by endorsing the FX series Sons Of Anarchy, a show riddled with murder and violence. Note that this is the same company that cancelled their contract prematurely with Evel Kneivel, the most famous motorcycle rider at the time and to this day, over an assault charge.

    Speaking of images, this is perhaps the most popular image representing the "Harley Biker Culture" and it is a total farce. The man sitting on this bike was not the owner and did not own nor even ride a motorcycle. The image was staged by The San Francisco Chronical following some wild biker activity during July 4, 1947 to accompany a highly sensationalized article about the "Havoc in Hollister", "Riots", and how "Cyclists take over town". This article and the stories surrounding the event are more fiction-than-fact. An article about the partying in Hollister can be found here and it does a good job telling the story of what really happened that weekend. Hollywood further tarnished the public's opinion of motorcyclists in the 1954 film "The Wild One" by portraying motorcyclists as everything from drunken misfits to complete sociopaths.

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    Gaudy Accessory And Terrible Styling Choices By Harley owners

    Ape Hangers: What an absolute abomination.This is nothing short of a safety issue. There is no reasonable explanation for having one's hands at a position higher than level with one's shoulders. While there is a little logic behind the history of this handlebar design, in modern times, it just does not apply. The origin of "ape hangers" came about when motorcycles didn't have rear suspensions. On rough roads, one could reduce the impact on one's spine by lifting against the handlebars. This does not apply any more as road conditions have improved greatly and motorcycles now have rear suspensions. Well most of them do...

    Hard tails: I think that we are to the point now where y'all can put some springs on there.

    Tassels: What in the HELL would possess someone to add frills to their bike, particularly if they think that they are portraying the "biker image"? These are silly pieces of flair added to motorcycles simply to attract attention of bystanders and distract the attention of the rider. I remember my little sister's Holly Hobby bike having really pretty pink ones coming off of the ends of the handlebars and can't help but snicker at the similarity when I see them on motorcycles driven by adult men. These things serve absolutely no purpose other than to attract attention. No reasonable motorcyclist (racer, cruiser, tourer, etc.) would allow items to dangle freely from his or her motorcycle.

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    There is so much more to talk about...

  • An in-depth discussion about engine design is being developed and will be posted soon.
  • A real hard look at Harley Davidson's racing history and total lack of competitiveness against other manufacturers definitely deserves to be addressed.
  • Research is being done as to how Harley won the war contract by going outside of the parameters set by the US government when soliciting bids. This move pushed Indian out of the running for an important war contract and was partially responsible for their demise.
  • Evel Kneivel is often remembered as riding a Harley Davidson XR750 but he also rode and jumped many brands of motorcycles before and after HD including Honda®, Norton ®, Triumph®, Laverda®, and was signed with California Motorcycle Company® after Harley withdrew their sponsorship over a sex scandal.